8A: Loyola vs. Naperville Central
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Huskie Stadium, DeKalb.
Records: Loyola 12-1, Naperville Central 10-3.
On the offensive
Illinois State-bound QB Jake Kolbe (2,106 yards, 18 TDs, 3 INTs) of Naperville Central and Loyola counterpart Jack Penn are having outstanding seasons, but the weather could turn this into a battle of running games. Both can run, as can Loyola's Julius Holley (870 yards, 9 TDs) and Central's Kevin Clifford (739 yards, 15 TDs).
Loyola's defense was put in tough spots throughout its 15-14 semifinal victory over Stevenson and continued to keep the Ramblers in the game. Defensive tackle Charlie Pontarelli has convinced opponents to stop running. Mike Kolzow's two interceptions against Marist in the semifinals may make Loyola think twice about passing.
The number: 99
Yards Kolbe drove Naperville Central to cut the Redhawks' deficit to two in the fourth quarter last week. They then picked up three third downs and two fourth downs on the game-winning 80-yard drive.
This game could just as easily have been Stevenson-Marist. Loyola survived four turnovers by scoring and converting the two-point conversion with 63 seconds left to beat Stevenson. Naperville Central trailed Marist 21-7 in the third quarter and withstood a late Marist drive to win 27-21 thanks to an interception by Kolzow in the end zone.
Helfgot's pick: Loyola 21-7. Ramblers' 'D' bangs down door they've been knocking on for years.
7A: Mount Carmel vs. Lake Zurich
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, Huskie Stadium, DeKalb.
Records: Mount Carmel 12-1, Lake Zurich 12-1.
On the offensive
Both teams are well above average offensively from an objective standpoint, but merely being competent might do the trick considering how strong both defenses are. Noah Allgood had success through the air on a cold day against a tough Glenbard West defense in the semifinals, and he's going to need to repeat that effort. Illinois-bound RB Matt Domer (154 carries, 1,229 yards) is Mount Carmel's best bet for penetration.
Keep an eye on Lake Zurich linebacker Colton Moskal and Mount Carmel DLs Steve Richardson and Enoch Smith Jr. They play the game on a high level.
The number: 9